Robertson, Patrick (DNB00)

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ROBERTSON, PATRICK, Lord Robertson (1794–1855), Scottish judge, born in Edinburgh on 17 Feb. 1794, was the second son of James Robertson, writer to the signet, who died on 15 April 1820. His mother's maiden name was Mary Saunders. He was educated at the high school of Edinburgh, and was called to the Scottish bar on 27 May 1815, along with his friend John Wilson [q. v.], afterwards better known as ‘Christopher North.’ He soon obtained a practice, both in the court of session and before the general assembly. In January 1838 he defended the Glasgow cotton-spinners before the high court of justiciary at Edinburgh. On 29 Nov. 1842 he was chosen dean of the faculty of advocates. He was appointed an ordinary lord of session in the place of Lord Meadowbank in November 1843, and took his seat on the bench as Lord Robertson. In 1848 he was elected by the students lord rector of Marischal College and university of Aberdeen, and received the degree of LL.D. He died suddenly, from a stroke of apoplexy, at his house in Drummond Place, Edinburgh, on 10 Jan. 1855, aged 60. He was buried in West Church burying-ground, Edinburgh, on the 15th of the same month. A marble tablet was erected to his memory in St. Giles's Church. Robertson was an able and energetic advocate, of strong natural abilities and vigorous common-sense. He was commonly called by the endearing Scottish diminutive ‘Peter,’ and was highly esteemed for his convivial and social qualities. His wit and humour were proverbial, and in sheer power of ridicule he was without a rival among his contemporaries. He was present at the theatrical fund dinner in Edinburgh on 23 Feb. 1827, when Scott acknowledged the authorship of the novels (Lockhart, Life of Sir Walter Scott, 1845, p. 496), and took his seat as chairman after Scott retired. Owing to the rotundity of his figure, Scott named him ‘Peter o' the Painch’ (ib. p. 496). Lockhart made several rhyming epitaphs on him, and wrote a vivid description of his mock-heroic speech at the Burns dinner of 1818 (Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk, 1819, i. 146–7). He married, on 8 April 1819, Mary Cameron, daughter of the Rev. Thomas Ross, D.D., minister of Kilmonivaig, Inverness-shire, by whom he had several children. His second son, Major-general Patrick Robertson-Ross, C.B., died at Boulogne on 23 July 1883, having assumed the additional surname of Ross on inheriting the property of his uncle, Lieutenant-general Hugh Ross of Glenmoidart, Inverness-shire, in 1865.

Sir John Watson Gordon painted a full-length portrait of Robertson. A portrait of Robertson by T. Duncan was exhibited at the loan collection of national portraits at South Kensington in 1868 (Cat. No. 258).

He was the author of the following volumes of indifferent verse:

  1. ‘Leaves from a Journal’ [Edinburgh], 1844, 8vo, privately printed.
  2. ‘Leaves from a Journal and other Fragments in Verse,’ London, 1845, 8vo, including the greater part of No. 1.
  3. ‘Gleams of Thought reflected from the Writings of Milton; Sonnets, and other Poems,’ Edinburgh, 1847, 8vo.
  4. ‘Sonnets, reflective and descriptive, and other Poems,’ Edinburgh, 1849, 8vo.
  5. ‘Sonnets, reflective and descriptive, Second Series,’ Edinburgh, 1854, 8vo.

His speeches in the Stewarton case (1842) and the Strathbogie case (1843) have been printed.

[Mrs. Gordon's Memoir of Christopher North, 1862, i. 185, 227–31, 270, ii. 83–5, 94, 282, 314–317; Journal of Henry Cockburn (1874), i. 158, ii. 58, 208–10; Journals and Correspondence of Lady Eastlake, 1895, i. 43, 46, 152–3, 180; Anderson's Scottish Nation (1863), iii. 349; Grant's Old and New Edinburgh, ii. 156, 191, 193–4, 200, iii. 126; History of the Society of Writers to H. M. Signet, 1890, p. 171; Rogers's Monuments and Monumental Inscriptions in Scotland, 1871, p. 15; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, pp. 439–40; Crombie's Modern Athenians, 1882, pp. 71–3 (with portrait); Scotsman, 13 Jan. 1855; Times, 12 Jan. 1855, 25 July 1883; Illustrated London News, 20 Jan. 1855; Gent. Mag. 1855, i. 194; Annual Register, 1856, App. to Chron. p. 239; Haydn's Book of Dignities, 1890; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. vii. 4, 8th ser. vii. 367, 454, 493; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.